New Poll Shows 84% Percent of Oregonians Support Employee Choice

Eighty-four percent of Oregonians support allowing union employees to leave their union without force or penalty, a concept generally referred to as Right to Work. That’s the finding of a new poll, released today by Cascade Policy Institute as part of National Employee Freedom Week, which runs from August 10 to 16. NEFW is a grassroots campaign of 77 organizations in 44 states dedicated to helping union employees learn about their right to leave their unions.

The poll, with a sample size of 500 Oregon residents, asked this question: “Should employees have the right to decide, without force or penalty, whether to join or leave a labor union?” Of the respondents, a resounding 84 percent answered Yes.

The coalition also released a poll showing 82.9 percent of Americans nationwide support the Right to Work principle. Currently, 24 states have passed Right to Work laws which allow workers to leave their union without penalty or having to pay dues to an organization they choose not to belong to. Because of a deal struck by Governor John Kitzhaber, Oregonians won’t have the opportunity to end forced union dues in the public sector this year.

The poll results are significant because Oregon and twenty-five other states require workers to pay so-called “fair share” dues even if they decline union membership and refuse to pay the political portion of union dues. The other 24 states have taken advantage of federal Right to Work law that lets workers choose not to pay any dues at all if they decline to join a union. The federal government also prohibits forced union dues in its own workplaces; yet unions still represent some federal workers, and they represent workers in Right to Work states who voluntary choose to join.

Cascade Policy Institute founder Steve Buckstein notes, “Most Oregonians now support letting workers decide whether to both join and pay any dues to a union. Cascade research finds significant economic benefits if Oregon becomes a Right to Work state, but employee choice is more than an economic issue. It’s a profoundly moral one as well. No one should be compelled to pay union dues in order to hold a job.”

Unions often do as little as is required by law to inform their employees that they have the right to opt out. But as previous NEFW polling illustrates, over 33 percent of those in union households want to leave. Therefore, educational efforts like NEFW are necessary to inform and educate union members about their workplace rights and empower them to make the decision about union membership that’s best for them. More information is available at and at Cascade’s new website,

The poll was conducted by Google Consumer Surveys, between July 11 and July 31, 2014. It surveyed adults nationwide, including roughly 500 Oregonians and has a margin of error of approximately 3.76 percent.

Cascade Policy Institute is Oregon’s free market public policy research center. Cascade’s mission is to explore and promote public policies that advance individual liberty, personal responsibility, and economic opportunity.

Vincent Vernuccio Talks on Worker Freedom

Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s labor expert Vincent Vernuccio came to Portland in September to discuss how Michigan secured the freedom for employees to choose whether or not they want to pay for union representation. Here is his talk before the Executive Club on September 4th:

Press Release: Angry Protesters Reject Proposals for Employees’ Freedom to Choose

For Immediate Release

Media Contact

Patrick Schmitt,


Angry protesters reject proposals for
employees’ freedom to choose

Attendees and Speaker Harassed at Northwest Employee Freedom Event

VANCOUVER, Wa. – Several dozen union protesters marched outside Clark College’s Columbia Tech Center in Vancouver on Thursday evening. The hostile group tried to block attendees from entering the event venue scheduled to hold the first Northwest Employee Freedom One Night Event, jointly sponsored by Cascade Policy Institute of Portland, Oregon and The Freedom Foundation of Olympia, Washington.

After yelling, harassing, and shoving event attendees and organizers, protesters entered the venue and began shouting and using bullhorns to disrupt the event. The keynote speaker, Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s labor expert Vincent Vernuccio, was also spat on by a protester. The Vancouver Police Department was called and escorted protesters out of the event center. The two who refused to leave were arrested for trespassing.

This peaceful gathering of Washingtonians and Oregonians was meant to educate them on the story of how Michigan secured the freedom for all of its public and private sector employees to choose whether or not they want to be represented by a union without financial consequences.

“This kind of behavior is most saddening because it shows a real lack of understanding of what Cascade Policy Institute wants for Oregon,” said Cascade founder Steve Buckstein.

“We do not seek to end unions or union representation. We simply want all Oregonians to have the right to choose whether or not union membership and representation is something they desire for themselves,” he said. “All Oregonians deserve that right, even those who reject our efforts.”

“At the end of the day, this is a fight for freedom and justice. No amount of harassment or intimidation will change that fact,” he ended.

Photos from the event, including images of protesters and arrests, can be found here:


Statement on Employee Freedom for All Oregonians This Labor Day

While the first Labor Day was celebrated as a “workingman’s holiday” 131 years ago, today Americans in all sectors of the economy celebrate the day.

And when we are remembering the effort that has gone into improving the working conditions of Americans, let us also remember that freedom of association is important to all Americans. Unfortunately, workers in over half of the states, including Oregon, do not always possess that freedom in their workplaces.

In 24 states, all workers have the right to work for an employer whether or not they choose to join a union or pay dues for collective bargaining and related union services. Workers in Oregon and 25 other states do not yet have this freedom. But this doesn’t have to be the case.

The Public Employee Choice Act (currently known as IP9) is awaiting court approval to begin gathering signatures that will place it on the November 2014 general election ballot. Oregon voters then will have the opportunity to let public employees choose whether or not they want to be in a union or to pay union dues.

This freedom to keep your own money when you need it for your family or to keep it away from political causes you don’t support is within the reach of Oregon public employees.

Let’s take this holiday to remember that all workers deserve this opportunity to make their own decisions about whom they associate with, and where their hard-earned money goes.

Steve Buckstein is founder and Senior Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization. He will be presenting more on why Oregonians deserve employee freedom at Cascade’s Northwest Employee Freedom One Night Event at Clark College in Vancouver, Washington on September 5th.

This Labor Day, Celebrate the Rights of All Workers

By Paul R. Farago and Angela Eckhardt

This is a slightly updated version of a Commentary the authors originally published in August 2000.

In 1887 Oregon was the first to make Labor Day an official state holiday. Labor Day was intended to be a celebration of American workers’ achievements and a rallying call for workers’ rights. Today, as we reaffirm our support of workers’ rights, we should rethink what exactly that means.

Unionism was initially designed to be a means for the individual worker to use toward the creation of a better work environment. But now the union leaders and the individual worker have switched places in priority. The political power of labor unions has increased, but not to the benefit of individual workers.

One Oregonian, Harry Beck, knows this firsthand. In the mid-1960s Beck began to question his union, the Communication Workers of America (CWA). What started as a struggle for more local union autonomy developed into a fight over misuse of forced union dues. Beck ultimately prevailed in the 1988 landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision, CWA v. Beck.

Beck describes himself in his youth as “an avid union man.” Returning from duty in the Air Force to his career in telecommunications, Beck “traded [his] M-1 carbine for a picket sign and parades for picket lines.”

Soon, however, Beck confronted the dark underbelly of union politics. With CWA control centered in several major cities, suburban workers like Beck, who lived outside Washington, D.C. at the time, lacked a voice. He and his colleagues tried to get someone elected to their union’s Executive Committee, but as he reports, “the election process was rigged.” Next, they tried to form their own Local, and were denied. Finally, Beck withdrew his union membership.

Although he was no longer a union member and had no voting power, Beck was still required to pay the equivalent of dues in the form of an Agency Fee. He began to notice where his “stolen money” was going―particularly in terms of political spending. “The union’s publications were demanding their union people vote for Hubert Humphrey,” Beck explains. “That was the straw that broke my back.”

In 1976, 20 employees who chose not to be union members challenged CWA’s use of their agency fees for purposes other than collective bargaining, contract administration, or grievance adjustment. The National Right to Work Foundation represented the workers.

The District Court ultimately ruled, and the U.S. Supreme Court concurred, that only 21% of CWA’s spending was on collective bargaining matters. Fully 79% was misspent on union politics. The courts further ruled that workers cannot be forced to support political speech through union dues.

Not surprisingly, the Beck decision has been ignored by labor unions. Today, most workers do not know of their “Beck Rights,” or have difficulty exercising them. Unions continue to rake in billions of dollars in coerced payments each year, and dedicate vast sums to political candidates and causes without first receiving individual workers’ authorization.

We should be grateful for people like Harry Beck who struggled for the rights of individual union workers. There are now 24 “Right to Work” states that have gone a step beyond Beck Rights. In these states workers who choose not to be union members are also freed from the obligation of paying for collective bargaining representation they don’t want. Oregon is not yet such a state, but Oregon voters may have the chance to vote on the Public Employee Choice Act (Initiative Petition 9) in November 2014. The initiative would allow anyone to become or remain a public employee without being required to join a labor union or pay dues or “fair share” fees.

This Labor Day, let’s celebrate all who have made this country a free and prosperous nation, be they wage earners or entrepreneurs. Let’s respect one another enough to give more Americans the opportunity to make our own decisions about representation and political spending. In the spirit of Harry Beck, let’s uphold the rights of the individual worker.

Paul R. Farago is a former board member and Angela Eckhardt is a former program director at Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland-based think tank.

In Defense of Liberty: Unions, Right-to-Work, and Majority Rule

By F. Vincent Vernuccio

“We are a democracy, we operate by majority rule. Therefore, we can force you to give us your money.” Such is the message from unions justifying forced dues and opposing laws that protect worker freedom.

It is liberty, not democracy, that is the highest form of society.

Make no mistake, democracies, direct or representational, are better than any other form of government. However, they are only as good as the extent to which they protect the liberty that individuals enjoy. These liberties exist in spite, rather than because, of government institutions.

Many opponents of right-to-work laws justify their ability to force workers to financially support unions because those workers are within a group whose members at one time voted to force everyone in the group to pay.

This is different from voluntarily joining an organization that requires all members to pay dues for the use of their facilities, such as a golf club or a gym. Joining or being associated with a union is not voluntary or a matter of choice. In most cases it is a condition of employment.

Workers do not take a job at Ford because they want to join the United Auto Workers union. They join the UAW because they took a job at Ford. Michigan became the 24th Right to Work state earlier this year so that such workers can keep their jobs without being forced to pay union dues. Likewise, Oregon public employees who are now forced to pay union “fair share” dues against their will may very well support IP9, an initiative petition that would allow Oregon public employees to totally opt out of paying such dues if they wish. Once the Oregon Supreme Court approves IP9’s ballot title and slightly more than 87,000 valid voter signatures are collected, it will appear on the November 2014 General Election Ballot.

The union defense of “we can do anything we want because we have majority rule and we are a democracy like the government” fails on many fronts.

The first and most glaring inaccurate comparison is that the United States is a direct democracy. With the exception of some very small towns and state and local ballot measures, our government is a republic.

Furthermore, we are not just a republic that elects representatives to make our laws, but rather we are a constitutional republic in which certain rights of the individual are protected against laws made by the “majority.”

Pure majority rule in our country has its necessary limits.

The Founding Fathers correctly worried about tyranny of the majority and created several protections against it. James Madison warned against taking liberty out of a democracy. In The Federalist Papers No. 10 he wrote, “Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires.”

That is where defenders of forced unionism fail. When liberty is taken out of democracy and the majority is given the ability to steal from the minority, that no longer is a good and noble form of government or representation. Thankfully, that is not, for the most part, the case in America.

Even if the majority of a small community in the United States with a town hall style democracy or a state with voter initiatives and referendum voted for a law that banned people from going to church, it would not stand because of the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights in the United States Constitution.

It would not matter if a majority of the voters supported the law, majority rule would not be allowed to infringe on the rights and liberties of the minority protected by our Constitution.

Finally, unions are not government. The First Amendment’s freedom of association itself protects workers’ rights to ban together and join unions.

The special privileges granted unions include acting as the monopoly exclusive representative for workers, compelling an employer to negotiate with them, and other collective bargaining abilities that come from the laws government made such as the National Labor Relations Act, National Railway Act, and various state labor laws among others.

Unions, on the other hand, do not provide for government. If someone breaks one of the government’s laws or threatens to harm its citizens, the government, because it has a judicial system, has the ability to arrest and even to incarcerate that person.

While unions in non-right-to-work states can get a worker fired for not paying them (again a privilege granted to them by government) they do not have the ability to create their own jail and incarcerate that worker.

The reason for these limitations is simple—unions are not government. They cannot have a police force, they cannot have jails, and most of all they were never formed to govern citizens.

As unions try to use the majority rule argument to justify their ability to compel others to pay them, they must be reminded that there are rights more fundamental than giving the many carte blanche authority over the few.

Purveyors of this argument must be reminded: When there is a conflict between liberty and democracy, we must always err on the side of liberty.

F. Vincent Vernuccio is director of labor policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy and a guest contributor at Cascade Policy Institute. He is a graduate of the Ave Maria School of Law in Ann Arbor, Michigan. A version of this article originally appeared in Michigan Capitol Confidential.

More than thirty percent of Oregon union households want out

Right to Work policies in 24 states allow workers the freedom to join or not join a union. Oregon, however, is one of the 26 states without such employee freedom. Here, if a workplace is organized by a union, workers must either join the union and pay dues, or opt out of membership but still pay what are called “fair share” dues, supposedly to cover the cost of negotiating and upholding their employment contracts.

Why might workers like the opportunity to opt out of union membership? Some believe they can make better use of their own money rather than giving it to a union. Others “vote with their feet” against what they perceive to be poor union service or negotiating results. Still others leave because they oppose their unions’ political positions. They simply don’t want to support any organization that doesn’t share their political beliefs, whatever those might be.

Last year, Cascade Policy Institute conducted ground-breaking research on the economic benefits of allowing Oregon workers to opt out of union membership and “fair share” dues. Our February 2012 report concluded that, upon enactment of a full Right to Work policy, Oregon would have:

  • 50,000 more people working in five years; 110,000 more working in ten years.
  • $2.7 billion more in wage and salary income in five years; $7.0 billion more in ten years.
  • 14 percent more taxpaying families per year moving here from non-right-to-work states.

All these economic benefits would occur without spending one dime of taxpayer money.

So, how many workers might completely opt out of their union if they could? To answer that question, beginning in mid-May 2013 a coalition of non-profit groups across the country conducted a series of union household Google Consumer Surveys, including some 500 valid respondents throughout Oregon. Survey results were released at the beginning of National Employee Freedom Week (June 23-29).

All survey respondents were asked:

If it were possible to opt out of membership in a labor union
without losing your job or any other penalty, would you do it?”

Nationally, 33.4% of respondents answered Yes.

In Oregon, 31.2% of respondents answered Yes.

These results are bolstered by the fact that last year only 70% of workers in bargaining units represented by Oregon’s largest public employee union chose to be union members. According to SEIU’s Local 503 annual report submitted to the federal Department of Labor, the other 30% had opted out of membership but were still required to pay “fair share” dues. If Oregon were a Right to Work state, these workers could opt out entirely. Soon, they may be able to do just that.

A citizens’ initiative known as IP9 is awaiting final ballot title approval from the Oregon Supreme Court before collecting signatures for placement on the November 2014 ballot. It would allow Oregon public employees to opt out of membership and any dues payments to a union they don’t wish to support.

The Right to Work without third-party interference is more than an economic issue; it is a profoundly moral one as well. In America, no one should be compelled to join a union or to pay union dues in order to hold a job. Hopefully, before long Oregon will grant true employee freedom to every public and private worker in the state.

Steve Buckstein is the founder of Cascade Policy Institute, a free-market think tank based in Portland.

End Forced Unionism Now

The failed June 5th recall election of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was supposedly over collective bargaining reform, but syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer points out that the real battle was over ending automatic collection of union dues by government: “Without the thumb of the state tilting the scale by coerced collection, union membership became truly voluntary. Result? Newly freed members rushed for the exits. In less than one year, AFSCME, the second largest public-sector union in Wisconsin, has lost more than 50 percent of its membership.”

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels ended that practice in his state seven years ago, and 91 percent of public union members no longer pay dues. Then, on February 1st of this year, Daniels signed legislation making Indiana the 23rd Right to Work state so that no workers, public or private, can be forced to join a union or pay dues against their will.

The Walker recall failure shows that a politician can stand against forced unionism and still keep his job. It is time for Oregon politicians to take such stands. They should stop forcibly collecting union dues from unwilling workers. Then, they should make Oregon the 24th Right to Work state so all workers can keep their jobs without some third party coming between them and their employer.

Oregon’s Economic Outlook Slips Again in 2012

Hit hard by the national recession, Oregon lawmakers started the regular 2011 legislative session―and then the new shorter annual 2012 session―with calls to create jobs. By the time those sessions ended,  little had been done to encourage job growth in the state. And virtually nothing was done to address the major factors that determine the state’s Economic Outlook, as identified by the national organization of fiscally conservative state legislators, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).


Every year since 2008 ALEC has compiled and reported on the 15 policy variables influenced by state legislatures that appear to signal the economic outlook of the states. These variables are:



  • Top Marginal Personal Income Tax Rate
  • Top Marginal Corporate Income Tax Rate
  • Personal Income Tax Progressivity
  • Property Tax Burden
  • Sales Tax Burden
  • Remaining Tax Burden
  • Estate/Inheritance Tax Levied?
  • Recently Legislated Tax Changes
  • Debt Service as a Share of Tax Revenue
  • Public Employees Per 10,000 of Population
  • State Liability System Survey
  • State Minimum Wage
  • Average Workers’ Compensation Costs
  • Right-to-Work State?
  • Number of Tax Expenditure Limits


ALEC published its 2012 report, Rich States, Poor States: ALEC-Laffer State Economic Competitive Index, in early April.


How does Oregon rank?* Oregon now ranks number 26 out of 50 states in its actual economic performance over the last ten years. Looking forward, however, Oregon has slipped from number 35 in 2008 to number 45 in 2012, dropping from number 43 in 2011. Our economic outlook is now worse than 44 other states, again, based on policy variables that the state legislature could change.


In May 2011, Rich States, Poor States authors Arthur Laffer and Stephen Moore published an article in The Wall Street Journal in which they identified the two policies that “have consistently stood out as the most important in predicting where jobs will be created and incomes will rise. First, states with no income tax generally outperform high income tax states. Second, states that have right-to-work laws grow faster than states with forced unionism.”


How does Oregon rate on those two most important variables? The authors spent almost a full page of last year’s report discussing how damaging Oregon’s 2010 retroactive income tax increases on wealthy individuals and corporations are to the state’s economic outlook. They mentioned Cascade’s analysis of those two measures, 66 and 67, which were approved by voters in January 2010. They noted that “Oregon is tied with Hawaii now with the highest state income tax rate in the nation,” a fact likely to deter entrepreneurs and other high-income individuals from coming to Oregon and to cause some who are here already to leave. Initial results confirm what we feared: These tax measures generated far less revenue than voters were led to believe, and the state had some 8,000 fewer high-income tax-filers in the first year of these measures than the state predicted.


Oregon also ranks poorly on the right-to-work variable. Over time, economic growth in states with strong union protections has significantly lagged growth in states with more worker freedom. Twenty-three states have right-to-work laws which prohibit agreements between labor unions and employers that make membership or payment of union dues or fees a condition of employment, either before or after hiring. Twenty-seven states, including Oregon, require that all employees of unionized employers must become union members or pay dues to the union within a specified period of time or lose their jobs. Cascade is promoting the economic benefits of Oregon becoming a right-to-work state.


So, Oregon fails both important economic outlook tests: We have one of the highest income tax rates in the nation, and we require workers in unionized companies and government entities to join those unions and/or pay union dues. We also fare badly on other variables, including the fact that we continue to tax estates, and we have the second highest minimum wage in the country.


Again, the 15 policy variables taken into account to determine our economic outlook are all within state lawmakers’ control. Of course, there are national and international policies and conditions that are outside our control. But that is the case for every state. Oregon lawmakers must take responsibility for the factors they can control. Unfortunately, they haven’t, and our economic outlook continues to decline relative to other states.


Talking about creating jobs is great, but actually reducing taxes and protecting workers against forced unionization would go a lot farther in turning Oregon’s economic outlook around. Slipping from 35th to 45th since 2008 is bad enough; let’s encourage Oregon’s legislators to enact policies that will start turning that economic outlook ranking back up.

* Oregon’s 2012 Rich States, Poor States page is here:

Why Oregonians Deserve the Right to Work

The twenty-two states that have not required workers to join a union and pay union dues have enjoyed, as a group, more rapid employment and income growth, better job preservation, and faster recoveries from recession. Oregon is not one of those states, yet. Here, policymakers tried to pull us out of the most recent recession through greater state spending, funded by the Measure 66 and 67 tax increases. Research concluded that those measures actually will make our situation worse. Now, new research confirms that a better approach is for Oregon to remove a key barrier to private sector initiative and job creation by enacting a so-called “right-to-work” law.

Right-to-work laws provide job seekers and current employees the right to work for a company whether or not they choose to join a union. On February 1 Indiana became the twenty-third Right-to-Work state when its Senate approved a bill and Governor Mitch Daniels signed it into law.

A new study from Cascade Policy Institute (Right to Work Is Right for Oregon) examines the economic impacts right-to-work legislation would have on Oregon. The study is consistent with the vast majority of peer-reviewed research in finding that if Oregon were a right-to-work state, we would see improved employment and income growth. For example, enacting right-to-work legislation this year would lead to:

  • 50,000 more people working in five years; 110,000 more working in ten years.
  • $2.7 billion more in wage and salary income in five years; $7.0 billion more in ten years.
  • 14 percent more taxpaying families per year moving into Oregon from non-right-to-work states.

A right-to-work law can be viewed as part of a pro-investment package that encourages firms to locate and expand in the state. In turn, the improved opportunities would have the effect of attracting more taxpaying families to Oregon from other states, while slowing down the number who leave. By examining IRS mobility data, we found that a right-to-work policy here would increase net in-migration from non-right-to-work states by 14 percent from what it otherwise would be. That is a significant number of new families bringing their earning power and their consumer needs with them. Think how our depressed housing market could benefit from such a trend.

Our study breaks new ground by covering 70 years of data and every state and relying on what we believe to be the largest datasets ever used to study the impacts of right-to-work laws. The results demonstrate more than just a correlation between right-to-work policy and economic growth, but point toward a causal link. In other words, we conclude that the right to work actually contributes to more employment, higher incomes, more net in-migration of taxpaying households, and faster economic growth. It is, therefore, a policy we believe Oregon should adopt.

Unlike fiscal policies that must weigh spending against taxes or pit one government program against another, enacting right-to-work legislation will not take a single dime out of state coffers. Indeed, right-to-work legislation is one of the few pro-growth policies that are actually costless to enact.

Oregonians need to recognize that capital and people are mobile. Tax measures 66 and 67 push high-income people and corporations away from the state and likely will lose Oregon up to 70,000 jobs and 80,000 high-income tax filers in the ten years after their passage. Enacting a right-to-work law will put mobility to work in our favor, likely adding 110,000 jobs in ten years and 14 percent more taxpaying families from non-right-to-work states every year.

Even if our research had not shown so clearly that Oregon’s economic prospects would improve as a right-to-work state, we still would support the policy based on the non-economic benefits that the name itself implies. It is unconscionable that workers are denied the right to earn a living simply because they decline to join a union. Basic principles of liberty and justice demand that we defend everyone’s right to work without third-party interference. The right to work is, therefore, a moral as well as an economic imperative.

Click here to read the full report.

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